US 7035102 B2
An apparatus for air-cooling an electronic device is disclosed. A contoured panel channels a flow of air within the housing of an electronic device so as to channel the flow of air more directly over heat producing elements such as the microprocessor and peripheral cards. A sensor can also be employed to determine whether the panel is present and properly placed. If not, measures can be taken to reduce the heat generated by the heat producing elements. For example, a warning can be displayed, or the microprocessor can be instructed to enter sleep mode.
1. A cooling system for a computing device, the computing device including an enclosure than defines a space in which a fan and a heat producing element is contained, the fan generating an air flow through the space and over the heat producing element so as to cool the heat producing element, the cooling system comprising:
a removable panel configured to be removably secured to a portion of the computing device at a desired location relative to the computing device, the panel being easily removable so as to provide access to internal components of the enclosure located around, behind or underneath the removable panel, the removable panel having a contoured portion that protrudes into the space of the enclosure so as to help direct the air flow from the fan across the heat producing element, the contoured portion increasing the speed of the air flow by reducing the area through which the air flow can pass from the fan to the heat producing element the contoured portion including a sloped inlet portion for incoming air flow and a sloped outlet portion for exiting air flow, the air flow produced across the contoured portion facilitating the cooling of the heat producing element when the heat producing element is operated in a normal state, the heat producing element possibly overheating if the removable panel is not properly positioned in its desired location relative to the computing device; and
a sensor configured to determine whether the removable panel is properly positioned in its desired location relative to the computing device, the sensor generating an error signal when the removable panel is not properly positioned in its desired location relative to the computing device so as to prevent overheating of the heat producing element.
2. The contoured panel of
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6. The contoured panel of
7. The cooling system as recited in
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16. An air-cooled computing device, comprising:
a housing for enclosing various operational components of the computing device, the housing defining a space therein for placement of internal components, the housing having an access opening at one of its sides for allowing access to the internal components contained in the space;
a microprocessor disposed within a first side of the space provided by the housing; and
a fan unit disposed within a second side of the space provided by the housing; and
a panel configured to be removably attached to the housing in front of the access opening, the panel being free from the housing in a removed condition so as to provide access through the access opening, the panel being secured to the housing in an attached position in front of the access opening thereby preventing access through the access opening, the panel having a contoured portion that protrudes into the space provided by the housing between the fan unit and the microprocessor, the contoured portion being configured to direct a flow of air from the fan unit across the microprocessor so as to cool the microprocessor; and
a sensor configured to determine whether the panel is properly placed at is desired location relative to the housing.
17. The air-cooled electronic device of
18. The air-cooled electronic device of
19. The air-cooled electronic device of
20. The air-cooled electronic device of
21. The air-cooled electronic device of
22. The computing device as recited in
23. The computing device as recited in
24. The computing device as recited in
25. A computer, comprising:
a housing divided into a plurality of discrete thermal zones, each thermal zone compartmentalizing a heat producing element;
a fan disposed inside each of the thermal zones and configured to force air over the heat producing element;
a removable duct door having one or more contoured portions, the contoured portions protruding into at least one thermal zone so as to force air over the beat producing element located therein; and
a sensor configured to determine whether the duct door is placed proximate to the housing.
26. The computer of
27. The computer of
28. The computer of
29. The computer of
30. The computer of
This application claims the benefit of U.S. Provisional Application No. 60/535,279, filed Jan. 8, 2004 and is incorporated herein by reference in its entirety and for all purposes.
This invention relates to electronic devices. More specifically, this invention relates to the air cooling of electronic devices.
As electronic devices increase in processing power and speed, their processors generate more and more heat, thus exacerbating wear and tear on various components due to thermal cycling and otherwise compromising their performance. Such temperature-related problems only continue to grow as processor speeds continue their steady march upward. The cooling of these processors, and other heat producing elements, has therefore become an important issue affecting the performance of modern electronic devices such as computers.
To this end, methods have been applied in the past to reduce the operating temperatures of electronic devices. For example, various liquid cooling systems have been employed to cool processors with water or other liquids. However, liquid cooling systems are typically bulky, expensive, and upon leaking, risk severe damage to the electronic devices in which they are installed. Fans for air cooling are another common solution to the problem of excessive heat generation. Such fans are an inexpensive and relatively reliable solution, and do not suffer from some of the drawback of liquid cooling systems, such as the risk of leaks. Ongoing efforts thus exist to improve the effectiveness and cooling ability of air cooling systems.
Broadly speaking, the invention pertains to improving the air cooling of electronic devices. A contoured panel is employed to channel the flow of air from a fan more directly onto an electronic device's sources of heat. In this manner, the heat dissipation ability of existing air cooling devices is increased without increasing their fan speeds, or any other parameters which may have potentially detrimental effects such as increased power consumption, noise generation, or the like.
The invention can be implemented in numerous ways, including as a method, system, device, apparatus, or computer readable medium. Several embodiments of the invention are discussed below.
As a contoured panel for directing a flow of air within an electronic device, one embodiment of the invention comprises a panel configured to be removably placed proximate to an electronic device, the electronic device having a heat producing element and a fan, the panel further having a contoured portion configured to be placed proximate to the fan so as to direct a flow of air from the fan across the heat producing element, the flow of air facilitating the cooling of the heat producing element.
As an air-cooled electronic device, one embodiment of the invention comprises a housing and a microprocessor and a fan within the housing. The panel is configured to be removably placed proximate to the housing. The panel also has a contoured portion configured to direct a flow of air from the fan across the microprocessor so as to cool the microprocessor.
As an electronic device housing, one embodiment of the invention comprises a first portion configured to support a microprocessor, and a second portion configured to support a first fan. A removable, contoured portion configured to direct air from the first fan across the microprocessor, so as to cool the microprocessor.
Other aspects and advantages of the invention will become apparent from the following detailed description taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawings which illustrate, by way of example, the principles of the invention.
For a better understanding of the invention, reference should be made to the following detailed description taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawings, in which:
Like reference numerals refer to corresponding parts throughout the drawings.
Fans are commonly used within electronic devices to direct a flow of air over microprocessors and other heat producing elements. In one embodiment, the invention discloses a contoured panel that channels this flow of air more directly over these elements. In this manner, the same fan, run at the same speed, more effectively cools microprocessors and other heat producing elements than if the panel were not present.
In some embodiments, it is of additional benefit to employ a sensor to determine whether the contoured panel is present and properly placed. If it is not, measures can then be taken to reduce the heat generated by the heat producing elements. For example, a warning can be displayed, or the microprocessor can be instructed to enter sleep mode.
Commonly, the abovementioned components are placed in the housing 100 according to known techniques, and the panel 10 and door 160 are then affixed to the housing 100. A shelf 170 within the housing 100 is positioned so as to divide the housing 100 into, in this embodiment, at least two distinct thermal zones. The peripheral card 150 is placed within the first thermal zone 180, where it is cooled by the leftmost fan 120A. Similarly, the microprocessor 130 and cooling fins 140 are placed within the second thermal zone 190 where they are cooled by the rightmost fan 120B. Rear fans 120C, shown immediately behind the cooling fans 140, are not necessary to the invention but often aid in cooling by further drawing air across various components within the two thermal zones 180, 190. The fans 120A–C are shown as individual components, but can be configured as removable assemblies that can be placed at various points within the housing 100 so as to alter the location and properties of various thermal zones. For instance, it may sometimes be desirable to place certain fans closer to the microprocessor 130, or insert multiple fans into the same thermal zone, during times of heavy operation. One of skill will realize that the invention encompasses any number and type of fans, placed in any configuration within the various thermal zones.
In the first thermal zone 180, a fan 120 directs a flow of air (shown by the arrows) past the peripheral cards 150. Often, microprocessors 130 consume more power and thus generate more heat than peripheral cards 150. Consequently, in the second thermal zone 190, two fans 120 direct a flow of air through the cooling fins 140 and over the microprocessor 130. Here, a dual microprocessor 130 configuration is shown containing two processors. Two fans are employed to reflect the extra cooling often required by this configuration. However, any number of cooling fans 120 can be used in any thermal zone. In each thermal zone, air enters and exits through known openings in the front panel 200 and rear panel 210, respectively.
In many computers, fans are already used to cool components such as the microprocessor 130. However, dividing the interior of the housing 100 into separate thermal zones 180, 190 allows for separate components to be cooled at different rates and/or maintained at different temperatures. The maintenance of separate thermal zones is further aided by the contoured panel 10, which is configured with contoured portions 20, 30 that can be specifically shaped for, and placed in, each thermal zone 180, 190.
The division of the housing 100 into multiple thermal zones, with contoured portions tailored to each, allows different components to be cooled at different rates if necessary. For example, it is possible for electronic devices to contain multiple microprocessors 130. In cases where such microprocessors 130 are all placed within a single thermal zone, it is often the case that that thermal zone generates much more heat than the others. The invention thus contemplates a contoured portion tailored to the demands of that thermal zone, configured so as to direct airflow over each microprocessor 130. In this regard, it should be observed that the invention includes panels having any number of contoured portions, each specifically tailored to direct airflow within any number of thermal zones that each having different cooling needs.
It will be apparent to one of skill that the specific geometry and placement of the contoured portions 20, 30 acts to more effectively direct air across components such as the peripheral card 150 and microprocessor 130. For example, the first contoured portion 20 is designed with a length that is as long or longer than many peripheral cards 150 so as to more effectively cool the entire length of the cards 150. However, it should be understood that the invention is not limited to the specific geometries and placements shown. For example, the invention contemplates contoured portions 20, 30 whose geometries are designed according to known principles for optimizing the cooling of heat producing elements within the space constraints of the housing 100. The invention simply discloses contoured portions of any specific geometry that acts to more directly channel a flow of air across a component of an electronic device. Space constraints, the location of other components, and the like may require that the contoured portions 20, 30 look different than shown, and those of skill will realize that such alternate configurations remain within the scope of the invention.
A further advantage of the invention can be achieved if the panel 10 is made of a transparent material, such as many commonly-used plastics. Once installed in the housing 100, such a transparent panel 10 would allow for visual inspection of various components of the computer system 110 without disturbing the flow of air through the various thermal zones, or alerting the system 110 to the absence of the panel 10. In this manner, visual inspections of the computer system 110 can be performed while still maintaining the added cooling of the panel 10.
Attention now turns to attachment of the panel 10 to the housing 100. It is beneficial to design the panel 10 to be easily removable so that the various components can be more effectively cooled without impeding access to the interior of the housing 100. It is also beneficial to determine whether the panel 10 is present and properly positioned, so as to determine the degree to which components such as the microprocessor 130 are cooled. Specifically, when the panel 10 is present, the microprocessor 130 may be operated at higher speeds, thus generating more heat, than if the panel 10 were absent.
To that end,
In operation, the panel 10 is designed so that its tabs 40 can be fitted within corresponding slots in the housing 100. The sensor 240 is commonly placed within the housing in proximity to these slots, so that when the panel 10 is properly fitted on the housing 100, the reflective portion 250 of its tabs 40 reflects light back to the sensor 240. The sensor 240 indicates the presence of a reflected light signal back to the processor 230. If the panel 10 is properly placed so as to aid in the cooling of components, normal operation of the microprocessor 130, fan 120, and other components ensues. However, the processor 230 can be programmed to act in a number of ways upon receiving an indication from the sensor 240 that the panel 10 is not properly placed. For instance, the processor 230 can be programmed to instruct the microprocessor 130 to issue a warning message to users indicating that the panel is missing and/or improperly placed, to enter sleep mode, to reduce its functionality or processing speed, or even to shut down. It can also direct the fan 120 to speed up. Many other variations exist, such as directing the microprocessor 130 to enter sleep mode after the panel 10 has been missing for an amount of time. One of skill will realize that these and other variations fall within the scope of the present invention, which simply discloses the sensing of the panel 10 and resulting control of the electronic device's functionality.
One of skill will also realize that the invention is not limited to the configuration of
The foregoing description, for purposes of explanation, used specific nomenclature to provide a thorough understanding of the invention. However, it will be apparent to one skilled in the art that the specific details are not required in order to practice the invention. In other instances, well-known circuits and devices are shown in block diagram form in order to avoid unnecessary distraction from the underlying invention. Thus, the foregoing descriptions of specific embodiments of the present invention are presented for purposes of illustration and description. They are not intended to be exhaustive or to limit the invention to the precise forms disclosed. Obviously many modifications and variations are possible in view of the above teachings. For example, the invention contemplates panel contours of any shape suitable for cooling components of any geometry, within any number of thermal zones. The invention also contemplates determining the presence of panels according to signals from any known sensor, optical or otherwise. The embodiments were chosen and described in order to best explain the principles of the invention and its practical applications, to thereby enable others skilled in the art to best utilize the invention and various embodiments with various modifications as are suited to the particular use contemplated. It is intended that the scope of the invention be defined by the following claims and their equivalents.